NEW YORK, Mar 17: A new study discovered that whole-body vibration can deliver the same benefits as actual physical activity.
The technique involves someone sitting, lying or standing on a platform while vibrations from a machine jolt small shockwaves through the body, triggering contracting and relaxing in the muscle.
Research published in the journal Endocrinology studied mice with diabetes and obesity, assigning them to either 45 minutes of daily treadmill workouts or 20 minutes on a vibrating plate. Over 12 weeks both groups of rodents gained less weight and saw their overall health boosted compared to mice that received neither, and both clusters showed improvements in insulin sensitivity and muscle mass.
The obese mice also suffered from low bone density, a side effect to be expected in both animals and humans after piling on pounds. Although the vibration did not improve this issue like the treadmill exercise did, both treatments were found to increase the levels of protein needed to form bone, suggesting vibration could be beneficial if done long-term.
However, the scientists have stressed that vibrations cannot improve all health issues associated with a sedentary life and they also pointed out that the study focused on obese, unhealthy mice which are unable to move properly, so young, healthy rodents would not see the same results from vibration.
“If you are able to exercise, we’d still recommend exercise as a first choice option,” said lead author Meghan McGee-Lawrence, assistant professor of cellular biology and anatomy at Augusta University, though she added that for people who are physically unable to exercise in a normal way, “our study suggests it may be possible to obtain some of the same beneficial effects of exercise in a different, less strenuous way.”
“The frequency and magnitude of the stimulus, and how long it’s applied, need to be optimised to achieve the outcome you desire,” McGee-Lawrence added of getting results.
Pete McCall, an exercise physiologist with the American Council on Exercise, also praised the method and suggests everyone can use vibration platforms, even as a warm-up or cool down for particular fitness regimes including Pilates. But, as warned by The American Council on Exercise, individuals who have electronic implants or pacemakers, women who are pregnant and people who suffer seizures, thrombosis or tumours should avoid vibrating.